Rep. Tim Walz, Minnesota Democrat, said the VA needs to make sure whistleblowers feel comfortable stepping forward if the department is to embrace accountability.
“When you look at these, a lot of these incidents that we’ve found out about have come from whistleblowers, that’s how we know about them. And that’s fact,” he said. “We’ve got the IG reports and IG investigations, but those almost always came after the whistleblower.”
The VA often puts employees on paid leave while under investigation by the agency's inspector general's office or the Justice Department, but Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson announced last week that process would come to a halt.
“We can’t let issues languish unresolved in protracted IG or Department of Justice investigations for months and years. Our past practice has been to wait for these investigations to be complete,” he said. “We’re done waiting.”
But only when leadership take whistleblowers and their protections seriously will doctors feel safe in the agency, Dr. Mitchell said. Until then, she urged medical professionals to stay away from the VA.
“Until they make it safe for physicians to speak up, until the central officedecides to stop this, I cannot recommend that any physician join the VA, as bad as we need physicians,” she said. “And we need them badly.”